Monday, April 30, 2012

Beach Stuff

So, I mentioned that I went to the beach (yes, again) on Friday to do some walking and some picture taking.  Now that I live a little more than an hour from the ocean, I can do this pretty regularly.

Many people are not beach people.  They are mountain people.  I understand. But I'm not a mountain person. 

What is it about the beach? (And here I mean oceanside, not any sandy place near water or volleyball net.  The beach I now frequent is almost always empty of people for the most part. I can go for hours without seeing more than five or six people. I have the place nearly to myself.)  My reasons are probably similar to the reasons of mountain people.  I find serenity there. The ocean is vast and the sky is high and I feel as if I am on the edge of the world. I feel small, and that keeps me humble - what are my little issues in the vastness of my surroundings?

Also, there's that rhythm of the tide, which sounds to me like God's breathing.  It pushes out whatever is tangled up inside me, it clears my head, it is fresh and cleansing.  I just find I can let go of stuff there and take deep breaths.

I also like the wildlife. I like the birds (have you noticed?) and the little crabs and seeing dolphins arcing through the water.  I like the shells - both the broken ones and the whole ones - and never come back without another one or maybe even another bag full.  I like the colors - the ocean blue and the golden sand and the blue and white sky.  I like the feeling of the sand under my soles and the water on my toes, even when it's really cold.  I go barefoot unless it's under 40 degrees.

I like to walk for miles, listening to the waves and the birds and watching the water and the sky. I like beachcombing.  And I find all of this to be a time and place for prayer, often intense prayer.  I pray about all sorts of things as I marvel at creation and open up and let go of stuff.  Sometimes I just walk along talking out loud to God about what's on my mind.  Sometimes I just stand there looking out over the water while I say people's names.  Sometimes I argue, with God or with myself. Sometimes I have a good cry.  Sometimes I just go along in silence, breathing.

I don't mind company, by the way. It just works out that I go by myself more than I go with others to the ocean. But of course I'm never by myself anyway. God is with me.

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know
you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend
us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that
we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of
any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beside the still waters

This being Good Shepherd Sunday, we heard today all about sheep and shepherds and either said or sung some version of the 23rd Psalm.  As this is an annual thing, Good Shepherd Sunday, those of us who've been part of a (liturgical) church for a long time have heard over the years a lot about shepherds and sheep, about being a flock, about how dim and/or grungy actual sheep (or perhaps shepherds) are.  When I was a young girl, there was a farm out in the county somewhere where sheep were raised (very unusual for our neck of the woods in those days) and I particularly remember it to be a smelly operation.  My own family had horses and cows. Sheep were distinctly different, aroma-wise, especially a large number of sheep in a small enclosure.

But whatever Jesus was getting at about being the Good Shepherd, and whatever we are meant to think about being a sheep of his fold (not to mention what we are to think about the other sheep who do not belong to this fold whom Jesus also knows by name), what I love most about Good Shepherd Sunday is the 23rd Psalm.  I love to say it, and I love to sing it, both the Isaac Watts version (My Shepherd Will Supply My Need sung to the tune Resignation) and the Henry Baker version (The King of Love My Shepherd Is sung to the tune St Columba).  I love the imagery of the still waters and the green pastures and the cup overflowing with blessings.  I love the part about fearing no evil even while walking through the valley of the shadow of death because God is with me.  God is with me beside the still waters, in the green pastures, at the table of abundance, in the presence of enemies, in the shadow of death. 

And because the Psalms are to be said and sung together (as a flock, as it were), then we all understand that God is with us all, always, in the places where it is green or blue or shadowy.  We are never left alone, in good times and in times of danger and sorrow.  God is with us because of God's love for us, all of us, all the time. 

And God's love is a love that is by turns tender and fierce.  Fierce for us, not against us. The king of love my shepherd is, after all.  Fierce like a mama bear fierce.

So, whatever else there is to say about sheep and shepherds and all, don't let's forget about that abiding with-us-through-everything love.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gone Fishing

I'm off the blogging grid for a couple of days. Here's what I was doing yesterday:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: The Black Pearl

No, not THAT Black Pearl. I suppose you were looking for Johnny Depp?

Collect for the Feast of St Mark

Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The eye of the beholder

I'm only about halfway through Moby-Duck (The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search with Them) by Donovan Hohn. I'm reading it slowly. It's a great read for a beachcomber like me. It's funny and smart but not sarcastic or condescending. It's fascinating. Even the footnotes.

And it's complicated.  What starts out in the author's mind as an appealing image of thousands of bright yellow rubber duckies riding the waves all over the world soon becomes a journey into chemistry, politics, literature - from Eric Carle to Herman Melville, psychology, economics and his own frailties and fears.  His subject is both science and myth, as it says on the jacket cover. 

Since I'm not finished reading, I hesitate to say much about any overarching theme for the whole work, but here is a question that Hohn asks on page 136 that made me put the book down for a while and think:  "How do you measure the value of a place?"  He points out that the Transcendentalists, Emerson et al., would say "beauty."  One looks at the intricacies and beauty of nature in order to perceive the mind of God.  But Hohn notes that he often has found paintings, or writings, of a place more beautiful than the place itself.  And anyway, who gets to say what is beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?  We can't all agree on what is beautiful, or what is valuable.  One man's trash is another's treasure, right?  Which is one of Hohn's frequent activities - picking his way through all sorts of debris (Japanese glass fishing floats, Nikes, nurdles (look it up)) to find the thing he most wants to find - a world traveling polyethylene bathtub toy that has adsorbed (look it up) a bunch of PCBs.

But then he brings in the zinger.  He uses a word close to my heart.  Imagination.  "[H]ow we imagine a place determines how we value it," he says.  "And how we value a place determines how we allocate our tax dollars or charitable donations - what actions we choose to take, which places we chose to save and what it means to save them."  (p 137). 

How we imagine a place determines how we value it.  Think of the things we imagine - not "dream up out of nothing" but hold in our mind's and heart's eye:  Home. Parents. Children. A cherished vacation spot. My church, my school, my neighborhood. A celebrity's house; a childhood friend's home. Whales. Yellow rubber ducks floating on the ocean blue.  Our imagination can both spur us on to the most wonderful action in the world - and it can help us live in a state of utter delusion.

Well.  Food for thought.  Like everything, any force can be used for ill or for good. Even my dear word "imagine."  But I think Hohn is right. How we imagine something determines how we value it.

Visual Morning Prayer

O Lord, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  (Psalm 104:25)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Physician, heal thyself!

You know how things go. There are some people in your group (school, church, neighborhood, bridge club, you name it) who get all grumpy about how things are going in their school, church, neighborhood, bridge club, you name it. They become fixated on certain personalities or problems or procedures within the school (etc) and get their noses out of joint. Or at least their moods plummet and they begin to seem rather Eyeore-like in conversation. ("If it is a nice day. Which I doubt.")

Some of us notice this with our kids. They are so self-absorbed and all kinds of money is spent on retail or actual clinical therapy or whatever to dilute the drama and moodiness.

The classic "treatment" is to get people out of themselves, to stretch their worlds, to help them get involved with something bigger than their own little group. To shift the focus beyond self to the other. This is what I often "prescribe" to those who come to me with stuff like this, both friends and family and people to whom I offer pastoral care.

So, the other day I was feeling really grumpy. I decided I really needed to withdraw into myself for a bit. To stay home. Maybe take a couple of naps. Maybe see a movie. Buy a new outfit. At best, to read a book (which I'm really enjoying and shall probably write about later). And while I don't think I'm fixated on any personalities or feeling bad about the way my world is going, I did recognize a grumpiness that I know better than to ignore.

But I forgot about the treatment. I forgot that dialing everything down was probably not the answer, but instead I ought to lift my gaze beyond my current horizon.

Well, as you probably know, that doesn't often happen by itself. Instead I needed someone to invite me outside my little circle. I probably get such invitations three times a week, but it is often necessary to deflect them, often for good reasons. Boundaries. Limits. Interest level. But for whatever reason, the light finally went off today. I got a couple of invitations that I decided to accept.

And, voila, the grumpiness is headed out the door. Duh.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Peter, Updated

When Peter saw the astonishment of those who had seen the lame man healed, he addressed the people, "You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? .... And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out."  (Acts 3:12; 19)

Does this sound like the Peter we all know and love? I didn't think so. The resurrection really did a number on Peter, didn't it?

There has long been discussion in the Biblical scholar community about the "unreliability" of much of the Book of Acts. The sudden "getting it together" with purpose and eloquence by the disciples.  Stephen's speech, which is a summary of the Gospel of Luke. The completely communal life of the disciples. The huge numbers of converts. Etc. Etc.

We always read through large parts of Acts during the Great Fifty Days of Easter.  And the book is in the canon.  And while Acts often is used (with certain filters) to follow the spread of the church (in conjunction with other contemporary writings), let us not skip over the theological import of this thing.

The resurrection is SUPPOSED to really do a number on us. We are supposed to be changed. We are supposed to be transformed.  Big time.

So, rock on Peter!  Rock on.

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Look, a bird!

A dunlin, one of the small sandpipers.

Morning Collect for the Future of the Human Race

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us
dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before
the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes
for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in
making provision for its future in accordance with your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April Roses

I am missing my roses this month. April is always the most beautiful month for flowers in my yard in Atlanta. We are having a lovely, lovely spring in Virginia, but none of the flowers here belong to me!

Of course, none of the flowers in Atlanta belong to me, either, but are only in my care.

I am awed and grateful for the beauty of the earth, but I have a relationship with the part of the earth that I actually tend. I planted each and every one of my roses and my delight in their blooms is personal, even as I know I deserve no credit for their beauty.

It's not time for me to plant anything here... I'm in temporary quarters where the light is not right. And so I will visit my roses in a few weeks, and marvel at their beauty and vigor despite the fact that I have hardly tended them at all this year. Because they are only mine in a sense.

Morning Collect for the Harvest of Lands and Waters

O gracious Father, your open your hand and fill all
things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters,
and multiply the harvests of the world; let your Spirit go
forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show your
loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and
save us from selfish use of what you give, that men and
women everywhere may give you thanks; through Christ 
our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Lady Banks Rose

Lady Banks Rose

Morning Collect for Agriculture

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so
that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who
work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that
we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your
goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anybody need an extra hand?

Somehow, the post-Easter letdown or slowdown has not happened yet. Or maybe it did, and it's over now.

At any rate, I find myself quite busy these days and not able to do much reflecting, and hence not much writing. This can't go on for long (I need to reflect, or things really get out of whack) but in the meantime, here's an extra hand.

It happens to belong to a statue of Pocahontas at Jamestown, the Virginia settlement of 1607 just a few miles from here.  Pocahontas was the daughter of Chief Powhatan of the Matoaka tribe.  You can read her story (the actual one, not the Disney version) here

The rest of the statue is that green that bronze turns when exposed to the elements, but both of her hands are shiny bronze like this. I guess a lot of people touch her hands.  Which is nice.

Morning Collect: For Church Musicians and Artists

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in
heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through
art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on
earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty,
and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for
evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Now the day is over....


  1. Now the day is over,
    Night is drawing nigh,
    Shadows of the evening
    Steal across the sky.
  2. Jesus, give the weary
    Calm and sweet repose;
    With Thy tend’rest blessing
    May mine eyelids close.
  3. Grant to little children
    Visions bright of Thee;
    Guard the sailors tossing
    On the deep, blue sea.
  4. Comfort those who suffer,
    Watching late in pain;
    Those who plan some evil
    From their sin restrain.
  5. Through the long night watches
    May Thine angels spread
    Their white wings above me,
    Watching round my bed.
  6. When the morning wakens,
    Then may I arise
    Pure, and fresh, and sinless
    In Thy holy eyes.

(Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865)

Morning Prayer for Travelers

O God, our heavenly Father, 
whose glory fills the whole creation, 
and whose presence we find wherever we go: 
Preserve those who travel; 
surround them with your loving care; 
protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey's end; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Tangible Resurrection

In these dazzling days after Easter, we’ve had time to think about what we proclaimed with joy last Sunday: Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! God has acted, death is vanquished! The Lord is risen, indeed!

That’s a pretty wild claim, isn’t it?

I remember, looking back on Easters past, how my mother always made me a special Easter outfit.  I remember the way my patent leather shoes squeaked and itchy crinoline petticoats; I remember egg hunts in the green grass and fuzzy cheeping baby chicks and sweet jelly beans and a soon-to-be sticky chocolate bunny.  I remember singing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." 

The Easters of my childhood were full of sensory experiences - sounds, smells and touches.

What I don’t remember is any explanation for all of this.  No explanation of what chicks and jelly beans had to do with Jesus coming out of the tomb.  I don’t remember conversation about what resurrection might mean to us now.  As I grew older, I found that I had a lot more questions than I ever got answers for about how or why the Lord is Risen indeed.

Perhaps you’ve had this experience yourself.  And if you have, don’t you wish Jesus would show up at your house one day and invite you to touch his wounds the way he did with Thomas?  Because in these dazzling days after Easter, it is difficult to get our heads around such an idea as resurrection.  We haven’t had the kind of encounter with Jesus that Thomas, and all the rest had with him. And so, even more than Thomas, we may have trouble understanding and believing, ourselves. 

What we do understand is that when we look around the world this week, we still see devastation and death.  Earthquakes and continuing racial strife.  People are still shooting one another.  We know that children are still dying from malaria, that people are still suffering from lack of work, and basic necessities, and lack of love. 
We know that people are still receiving scary diagnoses and suffering from abuse or mental illness that isolates them from friends and family. 

As much as we may deplore these things, we believe in them.  We can see with our own eyes that they don’t seem to have been transformed by the resurrection.    We or those we love have been touched by them and we can understand hiding behind locked doors in the face of a frightening world.  And so, like Thomas, we want to touch something ourselves - in this world - so that we, too, may believe.

This is where the other part of today’s Gospel story comes in:  the part where Jesus commissioned his gathered faithful ones, saying, “As the father has sent me, so now I send you,” and he breathed on them, just as God breathed life into Adam, just as God breathed life into the dry bones of Ezekiel’s valley. 

The gift of the Spirit that Jesus bestows is the gift of power that inspires - breathes into - new life, not only for those gathered there but us gathered here who participate in this story thanks to both the witness of the Gospel itself and the witness of faithful people ever since.  This gift, this commission, is the consequence of the resurrection, it’s the aftermath of the resurrection, and it powers the part we need to get on with. 

And that part is this: we can’t touch Jesus but we can touch others.  Ours is an incarnational faith.  It needs to have skin on it, eyes and voices and hands and feet.  Our faith needs expression through touch and smile, through food and clothing and sanctuary. Stuff you can see and feel and smell and hear.     Jesus commissioned his disciples, and through the Gospel commissions us, to continue his ministry after him, tangibly. 

Remember what Jesus told Martha when he came to raise Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Remember how Jesus told his disciples, “I came so that you all might have life and have it abundantly.” 

Throughout his life, Jesus showed us what abundant life is like.  It’s like wine overflowing at a wedding; it’s like never ending baskets of life-giving bread, and nets so full of fish that they can hardly be hauled out of the sea.  It’s like breakfast on the beach after a long night of nothing; it’s like a well of living water for an abandoned woman; it’s like the restoration of sight to a blind man; it’s like giving back life to a dead man.

This is what resurrection is about - abundant life, now!

There is so much life that God wants us to have.  And now, because Jesus is on earth no more, it’s up to us, and our children, and their children after that, to proclaim that abundance, and to touch others and allow them to touch us so that they and we all might experience abundant life, even in the midst of a world full of misery. Resurrection is what comes out of devastation because of love.

And this is what believing in the resurrection looks like: that we, having been forgiven and freed, are inspired to come out of our cozy and safe rooms to become part of something much larger than ourselves - to get outside of our own selves and beyond our own concerns, to look around in our community and beyond.

And to see need and meet need and become a vessel for God’s love by touching others in the midst of this broken world, bringing to others the abundant life Jesus came to give us all.  Resurrection is what comes out of devastation because of love. 

And so in these dazzling days after Easter, let us make the resurrection something real and tangible: something as soft as baby chicks, and warm as lambswool; something as fragrant as lilies; and bright as colored eggs and shiny as patent leather shoes; something we can hear like beautiful music and running water; something that sustains and heals like bread and wine and love. 
Let us make the resurrection something real and tangible in the world again.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!  The Lord is Risen indeed!

Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: Hop it!

A spring/Easter season episode of Simon's Cat!  I have to say that the bunny is well done! Mine washes his face just like this one does!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Look, a bird!

Our subject for the Friday afternoon break series in the Season of Easter is Look! A Bird!

These are brown pelicans.

Collect for Friday in Easter Week

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More about fences

Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post was a photo of a fence.  I wondered about how fences work to keep something in and/or to keep something out.

Which is part of my ongoing consideration of how we are to be in the world.  Sometimes we need to be open and to go beyond our usual boundaries.  And sometimes we want and need a safe circle. 

I think it's vitally important to have both.  Sometimes we just work in one area. Often, it's the closed-off one.  But our growth is stunted if we don't venture forth.  And also it's stunted if we don't learn to develop boundaries, which is fodder for another post.

I had an unusual experience the other day.  I met someone who sought asylum in the U.S. last year because she is a practitioner of Falun Gong.  It was a chance meeting, and we simply struck up a conversation.  She told me about what Falun Gong is (Wikipedia has a pretty decent article about it, here, which corresponds with her report) and why it is important to her.   I remembered that there had been a crackdown in China against practitioners of Falun Gong, who seemed to be people who did something like Tai Chi, and I didn't really know much else about it.

I met this person in our church.  She asked what kind of church it was (is it Catholic? she asked, seeing the altar); when I told her it was an Episcopal church, she said she'd have to look that up.  Then she mentioned that she loved how in America people can be part of whatever kind of religion they think is right for them.

It turns out that she was jailed for several months because she left in a taxi an article that she meant for her sister to read about Falun Gong, and the taxi driver turned her in, as there was a bounty for that sort of snitching.  It turns out that she had been keeping it secret from her family.  It's a long story about how she was able to come to the U.S. and how she is waiting for some resolution to her case.

But the point is that we had a very good time of sharing, just in an hour's conversation. I learned not only about what Falun Gong actually is but I met someone who practices it; she learned that someone from another culture could listen to her without judgment and learn something new.  As we said good-bye, she told me that it felt very good to talk to me.  It felt very good to just say who she was.

As I drove away, I thought about how "Falun Gong" was something I had simply associated with New York Times articles.  Now I have a face and a name and a good, simple, honest conversation with a lovely woman to associate with the term.  It was a good time of venturing outside my fence and meeting someone willing to venture outside theirs.  It felt very good to talk with her, too.

It was also sobering.  Here was someone who was jailed for her spiritual practices and separated from her family, who did not want to be implicated.  And we have people here who say that Christians are being persecuted for saying "Merry Christmas" at the mall.  Hah.  Life is larger and more complicated (and infinitely more beautiful) than it appears in the newspaper.  

I'm glad my gate was open when we met.

Collect for Thursday in Easter Week

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fence

And does it keep something in, or keep something out?

Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Photo of the day: thirsty neighbor

Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

More Easter Monday

When I was a little girl, growing up in North Carolina in the 1960's, Easter Monday was a big holiday.  I never really understood why.

Now I do.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one.  Clergy, musicians, altar guild folks, and many others have posted on Facebook or Twitter that they're spending today lounging, eating chocolate, reading, not getting dressed, and napping. 

I'm pretty much doing all those things today, too.  It has been a busy time, and as we heard in the first reading at the Easter Vigil, on the seventh day, after a busy time, God rested.  And so should we.

But my mind has ranged back over the last week (which is not hard to do from a prone position), and these thoughts have emerged. 

1.  It is almost impossible not to feel exhilarated at the news of Easter if one has walked through Holy Week with attention and intention.  That's the power of liturgy (including setting and music and good preaching) at work.

2.  The Easter Vigil is still the best liturgy ever. Good stuff often starts with gathering around a fire in the dark! Carrying the newly lit Paschal candle into the dark and empty church and singing "The Light of Christ!" is the best and goose-bumpiest job in the world.

3.  I really love seeing everyone's Easter finery as I press the body of Christ into their hands at the altar rail on Easter Day.  Perhaps the Lenten Scales had simply fallen from my eyes, but it was just a joy to see the yellows and pinks and lavenders (and that's just the men's ties!).   I myself wore red shoes.

4.  It was a special blessing to have my husband and both sons with me for Palm Sunday weekend and then to have my older son stay with me through Easter. 

5.  It is fun being in a place where we have so many visitors. It means we have to take care to be welcoming and to recognize that not everyone "gets" how we do things. And it also means we have the opportunity/responsibility to be the face of The Episcopal Church for many people.  I hope this keeps us on our toes.

6.  I work with some of the best folks ever. Our clergy, staff, acolytes, altar guild, vergers, musicians, readers, Eucharistic ministers and everybody else are absolutely fabulous!

 Happy Easter Monday, y'all!

Easter Monday

Bunny at Rest

Collect for Monday in Easter Week

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He is Risen! Now what?

Isn’t this the most beautiful - and strangest - story ever?  Very early on the first day of the week - on Sunday morning, while it was still dark - Mary Magdalene has come back to the garden tomb where Jesus was buried and finds the tomb empty. After alerting Peter and another disciple, who confirm what she has seen but then go home, Mary can’t leave.  She is weeping. And then, amazingly, she sees and speaks with two angels in white inside the tomb.  And even more amazingly, she turns and sees someone she supposes to be the gardener, but we know that it’s Jesus.  And Jesus comes to her and calls her name and it is then that she recognizes him, for Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep by name... and the sheep know him by the sound of his voice, and they will come when he calls.  Mary, he says.  Rabbouni! Teacher! she answers.

The Resurrection is such a great mystery. Nobody “saw” the resurrection itself - how it happened - but rather Mary Magdalene (and others, depending on which Gospel account you read) found the tomb empty.  There were post-resurrection appearances and experiences, of course, but the resurrection itself is shrouded in holy mystery.

Does that make it hard to believe?  Maybe.  The absence of someone doesn’t prove much, if that’s the kind of “proof” you’re looking for here. 

But experience of things not exactly seen is a significant part of the life of faith.  Just as no one can “prove” love, any attempt to explain the resurrection in human physiological terms eventually comes up short.  There’s a leap of faith that happens, for us at least, we who did not have the experience that Mary and later Peter and Thomas and the others had.

In the creed we say that we believe that God created all things, things both seen and unseen.  The resurrection itself is a thing unseen.  The presence of God is mostly always a thing unseen.  We experience Jesus in the Eucharist, and we see the bread and the wine, but Jesus himself remains hidden, and yet present in our midst.  Another holy mystery.

And so we approach these things in story.  The story tells us what we need to know, that something happened in that tomb and something happened to the people who encountered Jesus after his death, and something continues to happen in ways that often remain unseen.

And the story says that even when we think he is not there, God is with us.  The story says that Jesus calls us by name. The story shows us that Jesus, who refused to use force or violence but only worked for healing and wholeness, was vindicated by God.  Jesus lived the way we ought to live, with integrity; without malice or jealousy or greed; without cheating or lying or trying to get ahead; without getting caught up in one-upping other people; without scorn or conceit or soul-sucking cynicism.  Jesus lived to show us what God is like; he lived to show God to the world.

And after Jesus’ horrible and shameful death, a death he did nothing to get out of, a death which shows what the world is like - a world that works to tear down and kill - God acted in history and raised Jesus up to show us that love that is stronger than death.  And that good will overcome evil in the end. 

And so we are here this morning to say Alleluia, the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!

But there is more.  Jesus told Mary Magdalene that he must go back to God before his work and life were complete.  He came from God and had to go back to God, opening the way to heaven for all of us.  And so that means that Jesus is not here to show the world today what God is like.

That means that now it is up to us to show the world what God is like.  To show the world what love is like and how love acts; what a life of integrity is like.  To show the world that God desires wholeness; that love heals; that touching the stranger and clothing the naked and visiting the sick and imprisoned and feeding the hungry is the work God has given us to do here and now. 

Our God is a living God, and the story is not just a look back at something that happened two thousand years ago.  The story continues.  The sacred and mysterious story of showing the world what God is like.

What part will you play in that sacred story?  What part will you play?

A Collect for Easter Sunday

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Collect for the Easter Vigil

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only- begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. or this O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday

After Jesus died, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary watched Joseph of Arimathea wrap his broken body and place it in Joseph's own tomb, a new one, which had been hewn from the rock.  The women were sitting somewhere, perhaps on a low stone wall, opposite the tomb, watching.  They saw Joseph roll the great stone across to seal the door of the tomb.

The women were just sitting there, watching.  Almost certainly in sorrow.  Perhaps in shock and disbelief, but perhaps not.  After all, these things always happen - someone comes along and for a while there is hope, there is light and life, there is promise, and then it all gets dashed.

Then there is betrayal.  There is a mob.  There is violence.  There is blood.  There is death.

A violent and shameful death is not new, or even news.  Why should this time be any different from all the betrayals and violence and blood and death gone before?

That's where we are on this Holy Saturday, a day of waiting and perhaps reflecting.  We know the story.  We know what did happen and what's going to happen, and it is hard to pretend otherwise.  We don't need to pretend otherwise.  Even in the knowledge of what comes next, what we have the opportunity to do today, now, is to think about how this death - and what is coming after this death - is different.

Because a lot about this death is, frankly, not different.  How many people have gotten on the wrong side of the law or the authorities or the people and are done away with, one way or another?

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat there watching, without hope.  The stone rolled across the door of the tomb, and that was that.

But we are not without hope.  And perhaps that is the difference.

Holy Saturday Music

O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded. From St. Matthew Passion. BWV 244-63.
Choir of King's College, Cambridge / Sir David Willcocks. Recorded 1973.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Music for Good Friday: Barber's Agnus Dei

The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) composed by Samuel Barber (part of his Adagio for Strings).


The Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord... and he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter was so eager to follow Jesus. Just last night he wanted Jesus to wash all of him, not just his feet but even his hair.  He heard the command to love one another as Jesus had loved them.  And when Jesus was taken away, Peter still followed, at a distance at least. 

But soon someone associated him with Jesus, and something other than love kicked in.  Fear rose up in him.  And he acted out of self-preservation when he was challenged.  He denied even knowing Jesus, and when his first denial didn’t take, he denied Jesus again and then again. 

And Jesus heard him.  Jesus had already told him he would do such a thing.  And so when the cock crowed, Jesus looked at Peter and Peter was convicted, and ashamed, and he went out and wept bitter tears because he had failed Jesus.

Jesus told his disciples that their job was to love as Jesus loves.  To be willing to be vulnerable and to be steadfast in their faith that God was with them no matter what.  He told Peter that the devil wanted to sift Peter like wheat and to pray that he would not come into a time of trial.  And yet he did.  And he failed miserably.  Peter gave into fear and took the path of self-preservation instead of the way of self-giving.

Self-preservation is something we all know about.  It’s the impulse that stops us from harming ourselves.  It’s the thing that causes us to get out of the way when we sense danger is near.  But it also is the impulse to disingenuously shield ourselves by pretending we didn’t do what we did or say what we said instead of taking our lumps.  It’s the impulse to protect ourselves from taint by association, from getting involved with things that make us feel uneasy or afraid, to protect ourselves instead of standing up for someone who is in trouble or who cannot stand up for themselves.

It’s an instinct.  And we do it almost without thinking.  Certainly that’s what Peter did.

And then as soon as he realized what he had done, he was filled with shame and remorse.  He repented, there and then.

Repentance is pretty hard for me, and maybe for you, too.

Truly, most of us don’t want to make mistakes in the first place.  That’s one of the most common ways in which we practice self-preservation.  We don’t take any risks, we backpedal, we don’t get involved.  And if we do mess up, we are likely to try to cover it up somehow.  Because we are still practicing self-preservation.

But we are going to make mistakes if we are alive.  We are going to mess up.  We may even mess up big time.  Really big time. 

And when we do, we might take our cue from Peter.  Peter had to look at his failure and really see it, and then he repented.  And so can we.  We can have faith that even when we fail, we can be restored, as Peter will be restored.  We can grow, we can become stronger and our faith become deeper, we can let go of fear, we can forgive ourselves as we have been forgiven.  We can go on.  Jesus lets Peter know of his failure, but he does not abandon Peter because of it. 

If we are human, we are going to fail.  We are going to deny Jesus in small things and in huge ones.  We are going to give in to our instinct of self-preservation and deny him when things get scary for us.  And we are going to need to repent that failure, that denial.  We are going to need to weep bitter tears ourselves.

Because only then, only after we admit that and how we have failed, can we make room in ourselves for reconciliation and restoration. Only then can we risk loving as Jesus loves us. 

And so let us repent, and return to the Lord.

Collect for Good Friday

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday on Thursday (Holy Week Edition): Lamb of God

Lamb of God....

Collect for Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Light that Shines in the Darkness: Holy Wednesday

The Gospel reading for Holy Wednesday is John 13:21-32.

Every year we have to deal with this again.  We have to ask these questions again. Why? Why did the disciples not understand what was going on?  Why did the people not know who Jesus was and accept him? Why did Judas betray Jesus?  Why did Jesus have to die?  Is this really what God wanted?

Despite the order of our readings during Holy Week (in which we hear this part of the story today and then back up to read the previous scene, the one with the supper and the footwashing, tomorrow) it’s worth remembering that Judas was present for the supper and the footwashing.  It was in the context of this intense intimacy with Jesus and those few who were still with him, who had not fallen away already by this time in Jesus’ life, that Judas goes out into the night for reasons not entirely or satisfactorily spelled out in the Gospel. 

Theories of what was going on with Judas range from greed to frustration about Jesus not starting the revolution to an assertion that the devil made him do it.  John the Evangelist himself says that Satan entered into Judas - that something evil was already afoot in this gathering of intimates and that perhaps it is here in this scene that a pre-ordained cosmic battle begins, a battle in which the forces of evil, the dark, will try to overcome the forces of good, the light. 

As Judas goes out into the night, the dark, we might remember what Jesus said before, to Nicodemus, that “the judgment of the world is this: that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their actions were done in God.” 

And then we would do even better to remember what is written at the very beginning of this Gospel.  That in the beginning, the Word Made Flesh was the true light that came into the world, and that light gives light to everyone.  And that the true light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There is evil in the world. As we see in the story of Judas, who Jesus fed and whose feet Jesus bathed, evil is there intertwined with the good, part of a larger scene of sacred hospitality and intimate friendship.  Some people will choose the dark.  And so Judas has chosen today.  We like to think that we would not so choose, ourselves.

But whatever was going on here, whether or not Judas was a helpless pawn in the cosmic battle of good and evil, whatever his motives may or may not have been, and however we feel about the complicated and bewildering subject of evil, and whatever our own hopes are for how we ourselves might have acted in this situation, our focus must not be distracted away from the light itself. 

Because the message from the very beginning, from “in the beginning,” is that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not - and cannot - overcome it.  The light will shine on, it will still be there, even when it appears to have sputtered and gone out. 
As fascinating and mesmerizing and tantalizing and tempting as darkness and evil can be, it is the light, and not the dark, that must be our focus here.  It is Jesus who is the light of the world and no amount of evil, of horror and pain and suffering, of violence and betrayal - even our own betrayal - will ever, ever put that light out.  That is the promise and the glory of God (that is the glorification!) that we see in Jesus, who came to show us God.

As we move into the deepest dark of Holy Week, as we get swept again into this brutal story of betrayal and violence and suffering and death, as we doubt and waver in our feeble humanity, this truth is what we must hold on to, this truth is what we believe, and this truth is the promise:  That no matter what, the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot ever overcome it.

Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Are we not marvelously made?

                Is not the world a miracle?

                               Why do we strive so hard for perfection, instead of seeing it all around us?


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